On ‘Designing for Access to Nature in Healthcare’

Mary Catherine bunting Center

Mary Catherine Bunting Center at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore
image: Patrick Ross via Healthcare Design Magazine

Making the connection between health and nature would seem to be an obvious one, especially when we consider the emerging research on measuring health outcomes in nature or when simply viewing any variety of nature’s wonders.  And it would seem that our work as landscape architects in this field should be a no-brainer – particularly in healthcare design, right?

But there are other functions that enter into this transitioning equation which impact and influence how we bring nature into a sterile built environment.  Global issues like sustainability, aesthetics, social and cultural factors, or more specific issues like infection control.  How do we blend these synergies of influence from such disparate fields in ways that will help us to design positive interventions that will simply help people get through their good days and their bad?

The answers seem to be coming not only from the design studios but from a collection of sources and resources, like a broad ‘band of brothers’, focusing on human connections and place making.  Researchers, social scientists, strategic planners, landscape architects – like Angela Loder, University of Denver; Francis (Ming) Kuo, University of Illinois; Kathy Wolf, Washington University; Robert Ryan, UMASS Amherst; Len Hopper, FASLA, and Rodney Swink, FASLA, to name a few – all of whom are making a difference in how we collaborate and connect people with the benefits of nature through design.

I’ve had the privilege and pleasure of working with these ‘change makers’ on the Human Health and Well-being sub-committee of SITES and with Angela on developing the Living Architecture Performance Tool.  It is Angela’s research on living architecture that this article is focused around, aligned with my work on the Green Guide for Health Care and on the Environmental Standards Council of The Center for Health Design.  We hope this will be the first of several such articles to be published around these transdisciplinary efforts.

Designing for Access to Nature in HealthcareHealthcare Design, July 2013
Written by Angela Loder and Jerry Smith

by Jerry Smith, FASLA

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